How the Sapporo agreement can make the UK a world leader in nuclear
The landmark agreement at the G7 Nuclear Energy Forum offers tremendous benefits we must not waste.
At the G7 Nuclear Energy Forum in Sapporo, Japan, the United Kingdom, United States, Canada, Japan, and France agreed to counter Russia’s role in global nuclear energy by ‘leveraging the respective resources and capabilities of each country’s civil nuclear power sectors to undermine Russia’s grip on supply chains’ with the aim of isolating it out of the nuclear fuel market.
As the world turns increasingly to nuclear as a source of low-carbon and secure energy, this landmark agreement provides Britain with significant export opportunities that would utilise our sovereign capability and make us a world leader in providing our allies with the supplies needed to wean off dependence on Russian nuclear supply.
Britain’s leadership in the response from Europe to the Ukraine conflict has been commended. However, we make further strides by helping the West resist Russia’s continued aggressive and successful exports of its civil nuclear technologies, which feed billions of revenue into the Russian war economy, threatening the energy security and strategic position of the Western Alliance, including allies in NATO, the EU and the Pacific.
Just as the Kremlin weaponised Europe’s dependence on gas, it could also exploit global reliance on the Russian nuclear industry to undermine support for Ukraine. Rosatom, the Russian state-run nuclear power giant, has been absent from Western sanctions as it is a pivotal supplier for over 30 countries that depend on it to maintain their nuclear facilities and provide fuel to run them. Without Russian fuel supplies, the world would face a 15% gap in uranium conversion and a 20% shortfall in enrichment supplies.
The UK Government should support investments in UK fuel capabilities on the back of the G7 agreement because there is strategic value to cutting Western dependency on Russian energy sources beyond what can be captured in purely commercial decisions. We are uniquely positioned to help with a conversion facility, which is currently inactive, at Springfields in Lancashire and the capability to increase enrichment capacity at Capenhurst in Chester.
In April, Urenco signed a new agreement for enrichment services to supply the Kozloduy nuclear power plant in Bulgaria. Urenco’s Chief Executive Officer Boris Schucht said, “Urenco is ready to support countries seeking to increase their energy security and independence“.
The Department for Energy Security Net Zero can support UK Industry in signing future agreements with countries looking to diversify their nuclear fuel supply chain by making targeted interventions via the Nuclear Fuel Fund to increase UK fuel capability that will create hundreds of jobs in the UK, secure strategic capability and slash Kremlin export revenues and energy leverage by bringing developing nations toward the democratic, rules-based order rather than authoritarian spheres of influence.
The G7 and Western nations should not stop there. By offering the technology and fuel to deploy nuclear power, Russia’s approach deliberately creates a path of dependency on Russian money, capability and goodwill, which the Kremlin ruthlessly exploits.
With Great British Nuclear establishing an SMR down-selection process, to be completed by Autumn this year, the UK is in a position to facilitate the export viability of an alternative to Russian reactors and replace its global portfolio of projects and services.
The Sapporo agreement marks an important step in ensuring the UK and its allies can make significant strides in creating a more robust global nuclear supply chain, free from Russia’s grip. But it also presents an opportunity for Britain to be a world leader in nuclear fuel and to reap the economic benefits that would bring. We can’t afford to squander that chance.
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